Going rate for inconvenience

HOW MUCH compensation have you a right to expect when an administrative mix-up by a company costs you hours in lost time but inflicts little financial harm?

Norman Smith, a business consultant from Kent, has rejected an offer of pounds 100 from Save & Prosper after S&P admitted inefficiency in paying out the pounds 13,000 proceeds of a unit-linked life insurance savings policy.

The policy matured on 15 May and S&P gave Mr Smith the option of opening a bank account with a sister company, Robert Fleming, to accept the proceeds. There was a mix-up over the opening of the account, which meant that Mr Smith was unable to gain access to his money for more than a month after the policy matured. There was also a dispute over whether one month's premium had been paid.

In trying to sort out the problem, Mr Smith spoke to four different people at S&P and wrote to six others. He demanded compensation of pounds 450, arguing that the time spent communicating with S&P had eaten into his working hours and that the inability to gain access to his money could have presented financial problems for him and his business.

Mr Smith later reduced his demand to pounds 250 but S&P is sticking to its offer of a pounds 100 ex gratia payment.

Mr Smith has now taken his claim to the Insurance Ombudsman.

A spokeswoman for the legal advice department of the Consumers' Association points out that the law only allows compensation for inconvenience in certain circumstances. Even then, a strong case has to be made out and the complainant cannot bank on receiving a large amount. 'Our members frequently say they want to claim for inconvenience, and although we usually recommend that they do so, we advise that it is hard to prove,' she said.

Holidays are an exception. You can claim quite easily for inconvenience and loss of enjoyment if a holiday does not fulfil its advertised promises. But do not expect to get rich on the pickings.

'If a holiday company advertised that the hotel had a swimming pool and was 10 minutes from the beach, and when you get there you discover that the walk to the beach takes 20 minutes but that the pool is still available, the availability of the pool would be taken into account by a court when deciding how much you had suffered.'

In other types of claims, the best you can usually hope for is out-of-pocket expenses such as postage and the cost of telephone calls. People claiming for time lost from work would have to detail actual financial loss. 'An example would be someone who usually saw 10 clients an hour and could only see six because of the problem he was sorting out,' said the Consumers' Association spokeswoman.

The various ombudsmen who deal with consumer problems take different views on compensation, depending on their terms of reference.

Chris Hamer, manager of the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau, said that while there is scope for discretion, the Insurance Ombudsman had yet to order compensation for someone who had lost working time.

Chris Eadie, Deputy Banking Ombudsman, said: 'The law does not generally provide for compensation for inconvenience, but our terms of reference allow for it.'

Where the office decided to order compensation for inconvenience, the amount was usually set at between pounds 5 and pounds 10 an hour.

He added: 'We do get cases where people argue that because their bank charges pounds 25 for a letter, they should be able to claim that back for each letter they have written to the bank. We do not go along with this.'

At the office of the Building Societies Ombudsman, Stephen Edell said: 'We get cases where people say they are an accountant or something similar and charge pounds 150 an hour, and that is what they want. Here we follow the same procedure as the courts.

'If a complainant had not suffered a financial loss as a result of bringing his case to court, he would be compensated for the time and trouble taken, up to a maximum of pounds 8 an hour.'

A complainant may be able to prove financial loss to livelihood, but Mr Edell agrees with the Consumers' Association that this is not easy. 'If you were unable to see a client one day because of the problem but saw him the next day, that would not be a loss.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
Queen Elizabeth II sends the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London
media... and the BBC was there to document one of the worst reactions
News
politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker